File spoon-archives/foucault.archive/foucault_1998/foucault.9806, message 20


Date: Thu, 04 Jun 1998 09:30:36 -0500
Subject: Re: "Cultivation of resistances and subjugated knowledges"



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> I think
> there is at least this point of agreement between Foucault and the
> neocons:  you can't manage things to be as surprise-free as possible;
> managing produces surprises.
>
I am certainly not surprised that action produces surprises. Please note
the qualifying phrase "as possible." I would be very surprised if
someone lived a life with nothing but surprises, or made no attempt to
mitigate unpleasant surprises. A guy can go to a leather bar, get
himself handcuffed or put in a body suit and have the experience be
relatively surprise free. Or he could meet Jeffrey Dahmer or the guy in
"Pulp Fiction."  I doubt I would want to live in a world with either no
surprises or nothing but surprises. I doubt I could.


> Is it freedom in the sense of being free
> from the exercise of Foucauldian power?  It can't be that.  No human
> activity is free from the exercise of Foucauldian power.  As Foucault
> defines things, power doesn't exist without freedom, nor freedom without
> power.  So I don't see how one could say that there is more freedom--or
> less power--in the uncultivated spaces.  There may be more freedom in the
> good old-fashioned liberal sense--which is perfectly fine for a lot of
> things--but not in Foucault's sense.
>
I am not sure what Foucault means or can mean by either power or
freedom. I am not even sure what I mean by power or freedom -- which is
why I want to think about it rather than produce premises in an
argument. You seem to either have in mind a grand notion of freedom as
pure absence of restraint or the more clearly Foucauldian notion of
power as micro-physical resistance to immediate configurations of
omnipresent powering. ( The gerund works better than the noun). I agree
that the first notion is vacuous -- the total absence of restraint is as
unimaginable as Nietzsche and Foucault think it is. I also think there
are good reasons to attend to microphysical  power for practical and
theoretical reasons. I doubt that these notions of power or freedom are
exhaustive. With respect to freedom, I read it as a relative term. X is
free from restraint by Y. That hardly implies either that X is free from
al restraint or that the only kind of freedom is  "freedom in the old
fashioned liberal sense." The guy in the bondage suit is free vis-a-vis
the law if his actions are permitted (as some are not in States like
mine with sodomy laws). He is free vis-a-vis the police if he hides out
to play his rituals. he may be free vis-a- vis his wife. There are, of
course, senses in which he is not free and many could be specified. He
is certainly not free of Nietzschean/Foucauldian power because his
agency is constituted and restrained by it. He CAN be left alone (forget
about cultivation) to exercise what freedom he has. That also means
being left alone to restrict freedoms as well.


> Foucault is not going to provide you with any justification for thinking
> that they are better.  I don't know why he should have to.  That's not his
> project.  (It always puzzles me when people say that this sort of thing is
> a failure or a deficiency in Foucault's work--seems to me like saying,
> "This may be a great cherry pie, but it fails to taste like a good apple
> strudel.")
>
I am not interested in exegetical thinking. I am not terribly concerned
with what Foucault "really meant," nor do I owe any fidelity to his
project. I am a political scientist trying to figure out ways to use his
work. If it pans out -- fine. If not -- cool too.

Hmm, yes, Fraser and Habermas. :) Well, if you want a reason to think
that
the kind of capitalist liberal democracy we presently have is worse than

some other kind of political-economic arrangement, I think that Marx
will
do just fine, in a pinch.  I think Foucault thought Marx would do just
fine in a pinch, too, as his reactions to Tunisia and even his remarks
to
Dreyfus and Rabinow about the three different forms of power attest.

Not terribly impressed by these folks, and I would rather speak for
myself unless I quote or cite somebody. Marx is useful for exploring the
restrictions on freedom. The invention of the sociology of knowledge was
quite important. Habermas is fine if you are not interested in politics,
I guess. Neither help me with the concrete struggle to live freely.
Marx's realm of freedom is simply another eschatological fantasy as far
as I can see.


> To think about what we *might* want to mean by freedom
> is fine, I guess ... but it's not something that we ought to *theorize*
> about, with the intention of arriving at what we *do* mean by freedom:
> freedom, as Foucault says, is in the exercise; when you achieve it, it
> vanishes.
>
This sounds a bit mystical. I am no more interested in grand theories
than you are. I do want to think, however, and "freedom" is both an
explicatable (Carnap) and useful term for the problems I am interested
in. Or, so I would like to think. I may be wrong (Dennis Miller). The
test for me is largely pragmatic. We would need to descend from the
level of abstraction of this argument to decide if either Foucault or
freedom meet the test.







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HTML VERSION:

I think
there is at least this point of agreement between Foucault and the
neocons:  you can't manage things to be as surprise-free as possible;
managing produces surprises.
I am certainly not surprised that action produces surprises. Please note the qualifying phrase "as possible." I would be very surprised if someone lived a life with nothing but surprises, or made no attempt to mitigate unpleasant surprises. A guy can go to a leather bar, get himself handcuffed or put in a body suit and have the experience be relatively surprise free. Or he could meet Jeffrey Dahmer or the guy in "Pulp Fiction."  I doubt I would want to live in a world with either no surprises or nothing but surprises. I doubt I could.
 
Is it freedom in the sense of being free
from the exercise of Foucauldian power?  It can't be that.  No human
activity is free from the exercise of Foucauldian power.  As Foucault
defines things, power doesn't exist without freedom, nor freedom without
power.  So I don't see how one could say that there is more freedom--or
less power--in the uncultivated spaces.  There may be more freedom in the
good old-fashioned liberal sense--which is perfectly fine for a lot of
things--but not in Foucault's sense.
I am not sure what Foucault means or can mean by either power or freedom. I am not even sure what I mean by power or freedom -- which is why I want to think about it rather than produce premises in an argument. You seem to either have in mind a grand notion of freedom as pure absence of restraint or the more clearly Foucauldian notion of power as micro-physical resistance to immediate configurations of omnipresent powering. ( The gerund works better than the noun). I agree that the first notion is vacuous -- the total absence of restraint is as unimaginable as Nietzsche and Foucault think it is. I also think there are good reasons to attend to microphysical  power for practical and theoretical reasons. I doubt that these notions of power or freedom are exhaustive. With respect to freedom, I read it as a relative term. X is free from restraint by Y. That hardly implies either that X is free from al restraint or that the only kind of freedom is  "freedom in the old fashioned liberal sense." The guy in the bondage suit is free vis-a-vis the law if his actions are permitted (as some are not in States like mine with sodomy laws). He is free vis-a-vis the police if he hides out to play his rituals. he may be free vis-a- vis his wife. There are, of course, senses in which he is not free and many could be specified. He is certainly not free of Nietzschean/Foucauldian power because his agency is constituted and restrained by it. He CAN be left alone (forget about cultivation) to exercise what freedom he has. That also means being left alone to restrict freedoms as well.
 
Foucault is not going to provide you with any justification for thinking
that they are better.  I don't know why he should have to.  That's not his
project.  (It always puzzles me when people say that this sort of thing is
a failure or a deficiency in Foucault's work--seems to me like saying,
"This may be a great cherry pie, but it fails to taste like a good apple
strudel.")
I am not interested in exegetical thinking. I am not terribly concerned with what Foucault "really meant," nor do I owe any fidelity to his project. I am a political scientist trying to figure out ways to use his work. If it pans out -- fine. If not -- cool too.

Hmm, yes, Fraser and Habermas. :) Well, if you want a reason to think that
the kind of capitalist liberal democracy we presently have is worse than
some other kind of political-economic arrangement, I think that Marx will
do just fine, in a pinch.  I think Foucault thought Marx would do just
fine in a pinch, too, as his reactions to Tunisia and even his remarks to
Dreyfus and Rabinow about the three different forms of power attest.

Not terribly impressed by these folks, and I would rather speak for myself unless I quote or cite somebody. Marx is useful for exploring the restrictions on freedom. The invention of the sociology of knowledge was quite important. Habermas is fine if you are not interested in politics, I guess. Neither help me with the concrete struggle to live freely. Marx's realm of freedom is simply another eschatological fantasy as far as I can see.
 

To think about what we *might* want to mean by freedom
is fine, I guess ... but it's not something that we ought to *theorize*
about, with the intention of arriving at what we *do* mean by freedom:
freedom, as Foucault says, is in the exercise; when you achieve it, it
vanishes.
This sounds a bit mystical. I am no more interested in grand theories than you are. I do want to think, however, and "freedom" is both an explicatable (Carnap) and useful term for the problems I am interested in. Or, so I would like to think. I may be wrong (Dennis Miller). The test for me is largely pragmatic. We would need to descend from the level of abstraction of this argument to decide if either Foucault or freedom meet the test.
 

 
 

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